(TRUE RELIGION IS NOT FEELING BUT WILLING by A.W. Tozer)
One of the puzzling questions likely to turn up sooner or later to vex the seeking Christian is how he can fulfil the scriptural command to love God with all his heart and his neighbour as himself. The earnest Christian, as he meditates on his sacred obligation to love God and mankind, may experience a sense of frustration gendered by the knowledge that he just can not seem to work up any emotional thrill over his Lord or his brothers. He wants to, but he can not. The delightful wells of feeling simply will not flow. Many honest persons have become discouraged by the absence of religious emotion and concluded that they are not really Christian after all. They conclude that they must have missed the way somewhere back there and their religion is little more than an empty profession. So for a while they belabour themselves for their coldness and finally settle into a state of dull discouragement, hardly knowing what to think. They do believe in God; they do indeed trust Christ as their Saviour, but the love they hoped to feel consistently eludes them. What is the trouble? The problem is not a light one. A real difficulty is involved, one which may be stated in the form of a question: How can I love by commandment? Of all the emotions of which the soul is capable, love is by far the freest, the most unreasoning, the one least likely to spring up at the call of duty or obligation, and surely the one that will not come at the command of another. No law has ever been passed that can compel one moral being to love another, for by the very nature of it love must be voluntary. No one can be coerced or frightened into loving anyone. Love just does not come that way. So what are we to do with our Lord’s command to love God and our neighbour? To find our way out of the shadows and into the cheerful sunlight we need only to know that there are two kinds of love: the love of feeling and the love of willing. The one lies in the emotions, the other in the will. Over the one we may have little control. It comes and goes, rises and falls, flares up and disappears as it chooses, and changes from hot to warm to cool and back to warm again very much as does the weather. Such love was not in the mind of Christ when He told His people to love God and each other. As well command a butterfly to light on our shoulder as to attempt to command this whimsical kind of affection to visit our hearts. The love the Bible enjoins is not the love of feeling; it is the love of willing, the willed tendency of the heart. (For these two happy phrases I am indebted to another, a master of the inner life whose pen was only a short time ago stilled by death.) God never intended that such a being as man should be the plaything of his feelings. The emotional life is a proper and noble part of the total personality, but it is, by its very nature, of secondary importance. Religion lies in the will, and so does righteousness. The only good that God recognises is a willed good; the only valid holiness is a willed holiness.It should be a cheering thought that before God every man is what he wills to be. The first requirement in conversion is a rectified will. “If any man will,” says our Lord, and leaves it there. To meet the requirements of love toward God the soul need but will to love and the miracle begins to blossom like the budding of Aaron’s rod. The will is the automatic pilot that keeps the soul on course. “Flying is easy,” said a friend who flies his own plane. “Just take her up, point her in the direction you want her to go and set the pilot. After that she will fly herself.” While we must not press the figure too far, it is yet blessedly true that the will, not the feelings, determines moral direction. The root of all evil in human nature is the corruption of the will. The thoughts and intents of the heart are wrong and as a consequence the whole life is wrong. Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction. The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return. His subsequent action proved his expressed purpose to be sincere. He did return. Someone may infer from the above that we are ruling out the joy of the Lord as a valid part of the Christian life. While no one who reads these columns regularly would be likely to draw such an erroneous conclusion, a chance reader might be led astray; a further word of explanation is therefore indicated. To love God with all our heart we must first of all will to do so. We should repent our lack of love and determine from this moment on to make God the object of our devotion. We should set our affections on things above and aim our hearts toward Christ and heavenly things. We should read the Scriptures devotionally every day and prayerfully obey them, always firmly willing to love God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourself. If we do these things we may be sure that we shall experience a wonderful change in our whole inward life. We shall soon find to our great delight that our feelings are becoming less erratic and are beginning to move in the direction of the “willed tendency of the heart.” Our emotions will become disciplined and directed. We shall begin to taste the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ. Our religious affection will begin to mount evenly on steady wings instead of flitting about idly without purpose or intelligent direction. The whole life, like a delicate instrument, will be tuned to sing the praises of Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. But first of all we must will, for the will is master of the heart.
The Freedom of the Will (A.W. TOZER)
IT IS INHERENT IN THE NATURE OF MAN that his will must be free. Made in the image of God who is completely free, man
must enjoy a measure of freedom. This enables him to select his companions for this world and the next; it enables him to
yield his soul to whom he will, to give allegiance to God or the devil, to remain a sinner or become a saint.
And God respects this freedom. God once saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. To
find fault with the smallest thing God has made is to find fault with its Maker. It is a false humility that would lament that
God wrought but imperfectly when He made man in His own image. Sin excepted, there is nothing in human nature to
apologize for. This was confirmed forever when the Eternal Son became permanently incarnated in human flesh.
So highly does God regard His handiwork that He will not for any reason violate it. For God to override man’s
freedom and force him to act contrary to his own will would be to make a mockery of the image of God in man. This God
will never do.
Our Lord Jesus looked after the rich young ruler as he walked away, but He did not follow him or attempt to
coerce him. The dignity of the young man’s humanity forbade that his choices should be made for him by another. To
remain a man he must make his own moral choices; and Christ knew this and permitted him to go his own chosen way. If
his human choice took him at last to hell, at least he went there a man; and it is better for the moral universe that he should
do so than that he should be jockeyed to a heaven he did not choose, a soulless, willess automaton.
God will take nine steps toward us, but He will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but He cannot do
our repenting for us. It is of the essence of repentance that it can only be done by the one who committed the act to be
repented of. God can wait on the sinning man; He can withhold judgment; He can exercise long-suffering to the point
where He appears “lax” in His judicial administration; but He cannot force a man to repent. To do this would be to violate
the man’s freedom and void the gift God originally bestowed upon him.
Where there is no freedom of choice there can be neither sin nor righteousness, because it is of the nature of both
that they be voluntary. However good an act may be, it is not good if it is imposed from without. The act of imposition
destroys the moral content of the act and renders it null and void.
For an act to be sinful the quality of voluntariness must also be present. Sin is the voluntary commission of an act
known to be contrary to the will of God. Where there is no moral knowledge or where there is no voluntary choice, the act
is not sinful; it cannot be, for sin is the transgression of the law and transgression must be voluntary.
Lucifer became Satan when he made his fateful choice: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be
like the most High.” Clearly here was a choice made against light. Both knowledge and will were present in the act.
Conversely, Christ revealed His holiness when He cried in His agony, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Here was a
deliberate choice made with the full knowledge of the consequences. Here two wills were in temporary conflict, the lower
will of the Man who was God and the higher will of the God who was Man, and the higher will prevailed. Here also was
seen in glaring contrast the enormous difference between Christ and Satan; and that difference divides saint from sinner
and heaven from hell.
But someone may ask, “When we pray ‘Not my will, but Thine be done,’ are we not voiding our will and refusing
to exercise the very power of choice which is part of the image of God in us?” The answer to that question is a flat No, but
the whole thing deserves further explanation.
No act that is done voluntarily is an abrogation of the freedom of will. If a man chooses the will of God he is not
denying but exercising his right of choice. What he is doing is admitting that he is not good enough to desire the highest
choice nor is he wise enough to make it, and he is for that reason asking Another who is both wise and good to make his
choice for him. And for fallen man this is the ultimate use he should make of his freedom of will.
Tennyson saw this and wrote of Christ,
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, Thou;
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.
There is a lot of sound doctrine in these words—” Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.” The secret of
saintliness is not the destruction of the will but the submergence of it in the will of God.
The true saint is one who acknowledges that he possesses from God the gift of freedom. He knows that he will
never be cudgled into obedience nor wheedled like a petulant child into doing the will of God; he knows that these
methods are unworthy both of God and of his own soul. He knows he is free to make any choice he will, and with that
knowledge he chooses forever the blessed will of God.
Without Jesus, we approach life with the expectation of death. With Jesus, we approach death with the expectation of life.
Today, September 16, our dear brother in Christ Nabeel Qureshi went to be with the Lord following a year-long battle with cancer. We received this news with deep sadness and yet profound hope that he is finally and fully healed in the presence of his Savior.
Please join the RZIM team in praying for Nabeel’s wife and daughter, as well as for his parents and extended family. We know this is Nabeel’s gain, but a tremendous loss for all those who loved him and were impacted by his life and testimony on earth.
May God bring comfort as we cling to our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. http://bit.ly/2w0xB1P